Posts Tagged "Jacob Wetterling"

Another incident and some exciting news

Thanks again to everyone who continues to follow and comment on my Jacob Wetterling story. I have another incident to report that took place in Paynesville sometime during the late 1980s or early 1990s. I’ll share that in a moment, but first I have some other big news.

John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted has a new show called The Hunt coming out on CNN next month. He became interested in the new leads that have been generated in Jacob’s case, and is going to feature the story on his new show! His production crew was in town last week and interviewed Sheriff John Sanner from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Patty and Jerry Wetterling on Wednesday, and Jared and me on Thursday. Here’s a picture of me with the crew — John, Vitaly, and Chris — who came to my house to do the interview last week.

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Walsh’s new show will premiere on July 13, 8pm CST. Here’s a snippet from the official press release from CNN’s web site:

The Hunt with John Walsh, a documentary-style, non-fiction program will take advantage of Walsh’s unique statue and perspective in television journalism and will tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large. Through interviews with victims, loved ones and law enforcement and the exploration of new leads, The Hunt will provide the public with salient information to help in the fugitive’s apprehension. (Produced by Zero Point Zero Productions)

If you’re not familiar with John Walsh, I encourage you to Google his name and read his amazing backstory. After his son, Adam, was abducted and murdered in 1981, he went on to become an advocate for victim’s rights and launched America’s Most Wanted in 1988. In the 25 years that AMW was on the air (first on FOX, then on Lifetime), that show managed to track down 1,203 fugitives. That’s an impressive track record.

Watch a video interview with John Walsh…

JohnWalsh_video

I’m hopeful that by sharing Jacob’s story once again in front of a national audience, somebody might come forward with a piece of information that could help solve the puzzle. I’ll try and share more information about the show as it becomes available. You can also follow John Walsh on Twitter at @JohnWalshAMW.

Now then… on to another Paynesville incident.

I learned about this story from a 34 year old man who grew up in Paynesville and now lives in Minneapolis. He doesn’t remember exactly what year this incident took place, but he’s pretty sure he was in middle school at the time, so that would put it somewhere between 1990-1992. However, it may also have taken place when he was a little younger, so possibly late 1980s as well.

Here’s his story.

I was waiting for my Dad who picked me up from wrestling every night. He works in St. Cloud, and that night it was taking him longer than usual to get home. Possibly traffic.

I stood out in front of the Paynesville middle school, and sooner than later, I was by myself.

I then saw a long, dark, old green car (possibly brown) with an off white roof. It was driving around the block over and over. It was one of those old cars with a REALLY long hood.

I remember being a little creeped out that it kept circling. I didn’t see it for a while and felt relieved until I saw a figure walking down the sidewalk from the playground area toward me. He got closer and closer, and I could not make a face out because it was dark.

I started to walk away. He got faster. I got faster. Then he got faster again.

I ran to my aunt and uncle’s home who lived about 3-4 houses down from the school and barged into their house. When I peeked out the door, the husky guy briskly walked by and had a black ski mask on.

My dad came shortly after, and we immediately went to the police station.

One interesting note… this young man wrote a paper about his incident when he was in high school. He and his parents have been trying to find it to see if it might include more details or clues, but so far, no luck. (He did mention he got an A on it though!)

Also, here’s one final thing. A lot of people keep asking me who I think did this. The answer is, I don’t know. But since I learned about these Payneville incidents last summer, I’ve been operating under the assumption that one person is responsible for all of these attacks — Jared’s and Jacob’s included. That means the suspect would have to have a tie to all three locations – Paynesville, Cold Spring, and St. Joseph. That narrows the field pretty quickly and leaves us with a short list of strong possibilities. But… who knows. Jared and I continue to talk to people and are grateful for the help we’ve received so far.

Thanks again for following along and for “thinking Jacob” with me.

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Holy media blitz!

First of all, to everyone who has commented, emailed, or called in with a tip in response to our news story about the Paynesville incidents in 1986-1987, THANK YOU. By Friday of last week, KARE-11 reported that the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department had received over 30 tips, and I know I have forwarded at least that many myself. The response has been overwhelming, and I would especially like to thank the people of Paynesville for stepping up to the plate and facing this media storm with grace and compassion. It has not been easy.

Before our story aired on WCCO last week, my blog was averaging about 80 views per day. By Tuesday May 13, that number had jumped to over 30,000. (Yes, you read that right, I said THIRTY THOUSAND.) And that’s a day before our story with Esme Murphy on WCCO had even aired.

Fox 9 aired a story about my blog on Monday, May 12; KARE-11 had picked up the story by Tuesday, May 13; our story with WCCO aired in a two part series on Wednesday, May 14 and Thursday, May 15; and on Friday, May 16, Jared and I took part in a live radio broadcast with Esme Murphy on the Chad Hartman Show on News Radio 830 WCCO.

Since then, Esme Murphy has been following this story and has been researching new leads. You can follow her ongoing newscasts here: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/personality/esme-murphy/

I am hopeful that these new tips will provide a breakthrough in these cases. As I stated in my radio interview, it’s not OK that this happened. These cases may be 25-27 years old, but that doesn’t make it OK. It was never OK, and it’s obvious by the incredible response to this story that others feel the same way. People are stepping up, taking a stand, and demanding answers. It’s that simple. These victims deserve answers, and they also deserve our support and respect. They are the real heroes here; they are the brave ones.

One question I’ve been asked repeatedly over the past two weeks is, “How did you ever get started writing about Jacob Wetterling?”

Well… there’s a long answer and a short answer to that question. I’ll try to explain the long answer below, but here’s the short answer:

I didn’t find this story; it found me.

In 2010, I started this blog because I was looking for a creative outlet that would keep me writing on a regular basis. I had recently uncovered a mystery involving an old, ramshackle beach cottage named Villa am Meer that I started researching and writing about. I loved how the story unfolded online, with people commenting and sending feedback as I wrote.

When that story started to come to a close, I began looking for another mystery to write about. It was the summer of 2010, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I was teetering dangerously close to what would soon become a full-blown mid-life crisis (or mid-life recovery, as I like to refer to it). I suspect everyone goes through this when they reach their 40s… it has something to do with reevaluating your life and wondering if you’re in the right place, doing the right things with the gifts you’ve been given.

I Googled “Minnesota mysteries” (or something like that) and found a lot of ghost stories that sounded intriguing but terrifying. I decided that was not my thing. I started researching a murder that had taken place in my county back in the 1970s, but that turned out to not be my thing either. I decided I wanted to write about something hopeful… something that might have a happy ending. And that’s what brought me to Jacob.

I had just begun researching the Wetterling case, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a news story came on TV about a possible break in the case. They were searching a neighbor’s farm, just up the road from the Wetterlings’ residence. I watched in disbelief… I couldn’t believe the uncanny coincidence.

I decided it was a sign.

On October 23, 2010, the day after the 21st anniversary of Jacob’s abduction, I needed to go to St. Cloud to buy a birthday present and decided to take the back road through Cold Spring and up through St. Joseph. It got real for me that day as I drove past the spot where Jacob was taken. It was real, and emotional, and impactful. I suddenly had a passion to find answers.

From there, it has been one crazy coincidence after another that has kept me on this journey. Believe me, I have tried to walk away. It has been scary, emotional, and frustrating. There are times I’ve have had to stand up for my integrity and my intentions, and I’ve gained a new respect for people whose careers require them to deal with tragedy and heartbreak on a daily basis. Somehow they have learned to set emotion aside and get on with their work, but I admit, that has not been an easy lesson for this mom of two boys.

Trust me when I say that good things have come from this recent media blitz. Good tips have come in, people have come forward, and we have discovered at least two more incidents that took place in Paynesville, and possibly others in surrounding areas. I will share what I can in the coming days and weeks, but for right now, this mom needs a break.

Happy Memorial Day.

#rememberingjacob

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Live radio interview with Esme Murphy on WCCO

Yesterday, Esme Murphy interviewed Jared and me on the Chad Hartman Show on News Radio 830 WCCO. We spoke to her during the entire first hour of the show, then Patty Wetterling called in and shared more information during the second hour of the show.

Esme Murphy, WCCO

Esme Murphy, WCCO

I’d personally like to thank Esme Murphy for her heart and dedication in covering this story. She originally wanted to air it last October when she first learned about the Paynesville cases on my blog, but we didn’t feel we were ready yet. Jared felt strongly that victims needed to be contacted personally in order to respect their privacy and their boundaries. We were afraid that any intervention by big media would only make things worse instead of better.

So, we put her off for seven months while we researched these cases and talked to Paynesville residents. It wasn’t until another Minneapolis news station started looking at the case that we finally agreed to talk to Esme Murphy.

She has been respectful and kind, and has taken the time to research the details in order to get the facts straight. I’m especially appreciative to her for working with us every step of the way to cover the story the way we wanted it covered. Thanks Esme.

To download the MP3 files and listen to the full podcasts, click the following links:

WCCORadioInterview-1

WCCORadioInterview-2

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Part 2 – WCCO-TV covers Jared’s story

WCCO-TV_May15_2014

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Few Minnesota crimes are as notorious as the unsolved abduction of Jacob Wetterling. A masked stranger grabbed the 11-year-old as he biked home from a store in St. Joseph on October 22, 1989.

Esme Murphy, WCCO

Esme Murphy, WCCO

Nearly 25 years later, everyone remembers Wetterling’s name. But many have likely never heard of Jared. Just nine months before Wetterling disappeared, a stranger kidnapped that 12-year-old boy in nearby Cold Spring.

Six weeks after Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped, FBI Special Agent Jeff Jamar announced they had knowledge of the other victim.

Jared, speaking publicly for the first time in years, told WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy, “This guy stepped out of a vehicle, said ‘I have a gun I am not afraid to use it. Get into the vehicle.’”
The man who had a police scanner in his car drove Jared to this remote site, sexually assaulted him, then let him go.

“I was told to run don’t look back or he would shoot,” Jared said.
His description of the kidnapper’s threat is almost identical to the one described by Jacob Wetterling’s friend, Aaron.
“He grabbed Jacob and told me to run as fast as he could or he would shoot,” Trevor Wetterling said.

For Jared, the weeks after the Wetterling abduction were filled with grueling interviews with law enforcement.

“They brought me to a point where I broke down, just mentally broke down. They wanted the answer and I didn’t have the answer,” Jared said. “My parents made that decision we should move.”
Jared left Cold Spring, and for 25 years anniversaries passed with no answers and no arrests.
“I learned how to focus on other things,” Jared said.

That all changed last August when Jared was contacted by Joy Baker, the author of a detailed blog on the Wetterling case. Baker had uncovered newspaper articles about a series of sexual assaults in Paynesville in 1986 and 1987, two years before Jacob Wetterling and Jared’s kidnappings. Paynesville is just a few miles from where both boys were abducted.

The police reports and newspaper articles cited by Baker reveal striking parallels between the cases. The boys were all attacked as they headed home on bikes, they were sexually assaulted, the attacker wore a mask, had a low voice and threatened victims with a knife or gun.

Jared believes the same person who took him not only took Jacob Wetterling but is also behind the Paynesville attacks.

“When I first saw them, there was a big sigh that I am not the only one who had made eye contact with this person,” Jared said.

For the past nine months, Jared has worked with Baker to try encourage witnesses to come forward.
“I think it’s time for people to share their stories,” Baker said.

At the same time, Jared worries about the Paynesville victims.

“I apologize to the victims and people that we have already talked to, that we are going to talk to about bringing up 27-year-old repressed memories,” he said.

Over the years Jared and Jacob Wetterling’s mother have become friends.

“I am so grateful to Jared and Joy digging,” Patty Wetterling said.

She too is hoping someone will come forward for the Paynesville victims, for Jared and for her son.
“I do think there is a strong possibility they could be connected,” she said. “Every one of these victims needs answers. Are they tied to Jacob? Let’s find out.”

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The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office is now actively investigating all of the Paynesville cases to see if they are connected to Jacob Wetterling’s disappearance.

If you have any information about the Paynesville attacks or the Wetterling case, please call the Stearns County Sheriff at (320) 251-4240. You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

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WCCO-TV features 1986-1987 Paynesville cases

WCCO-TV_May14_2014

New Developments Revealed In Jacob Wetterling Abduction Case
May 14, 2014 10:00 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There is a new development tonight in one of Minnesota’s most infamous unsolved crimes: the abduction of Jacob Wetterling.

A masked stranger grabbed the 11-year-old as he biked home from a store in St. Joseph nearly 25 years ago. Now, WCCO-TV has learned that a cluster of at least six unsolved sexual assaults on boys were never looked at as a possible lead in Wetterling’s case.

Esme Murphy, WCCO

Esme Murphy, WCCO

Those attacks happened two years prior to Wetterling’s kidnapping, just 30 miles away in Paynesville. They are now being investigated by the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.

This new development in Minnesota’s most notorious kidnapping case begins in the most unlikely of places.

For four years, Joy Baker, a blogger from New London, has written a detailed blog about the Wetterling case. Last summer, her research uncovered articles in the Paynesville Press in 1986 and 1987. They detailed six unsolved sexual assaults on boys just two years before Wetterling’s abduction.

“The police chief is asking for the public’s help in finding this guy who has been assaulting 12-16 year old boys,” Baker said of one article. “What went through my mind is that they have to be connected. How many psychopathic pedophiles can exist in a 20-mile radius?”

WCCO-TV asked Patty Wetterling if she had ever heard of the Paynesville cases and showed her two of the original police reports from the Paynesville attacks.

“We did not know about these cases until Joy Baker put it on her blog, and it was like, ‘Wow,’” Patty Wetterling said.

Those reports, as well as the newspaper accounts, list a series of striking parallels with Jacob Wetterling’s kidnapping. He was abducted at 9 p.m. as he rode his bike home from a convenience store with his brother and friend. The Paynesville attacks also all happened at night as the victims were heading home.

In two cases boys were attacked while riding bikes. They were sexually assaulted. The attacker sometimes wore a mask, which in one case was described as made from candy-striped, indoor-outdoor carpeting. He had a low, gruff voice and he threatened the boys with a knife or a gun, saying he would blow their heads off.

“Some of these were taken from a group of boys. That is really rare,” Patty Wetterling said. “The threat of a gun, the age of the victims, they were close to Jacob’s age. I do think there is a strong possibility they are connected to Jacob’s case.”

While two of the Paynesville victims were questioned by law enforcement after Jacob Wetterling disappeared, one Paynesville victim, who is now 40 and did not want to be named, told WCCO-TV he and other victims he knows were not, and that to this day they feel their cases both individually and as a group were overlooked.

Patty Wetterling said it’s frustrating to learn so many years later about the Paynesville cases, but she is also understanding.

“It was a different world back then. We didn’t have the Internet, we worked hard so that each law enforcement agency had a fax machine,” she said.

Current Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner agreed the lack of Internet and the fact that small town law enforcement agencies often acted independently may have kept the Paynesville cases from becoming a significant part of the Jacob Wetterling investigation.

“We can’t look back. We are actively investigating these cases now. We want anyone with any information to come forward no matter how small. You could hold the key,” Sanner said.

Sanner stressed there is another unsolved case that investigators have always linked to the abduction. Just months before Jacob Wetterling disappeared, a stranger kidnapped a 12-year-old boy named Jared in nearby Cold Spring. Jared told WCCO-TV the threat his kidnapper left him with: “I was told to run, don’t look back or he would shoot.”
Jared is speaking out for the first time in years. On Thursday, hear why he’s convinced the same man is behind all of these unsolved crimes against boys.

If you have any information about any of these cases, please call the Stearns County Sheriff at (320) 251-4240. You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

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